For the past 15 years, Karen Brohm, president of the West Hempstead School District Board of Education, has pushed for pre-kindergarten education in the district. As part of its current budget, a pre-K center will be built at the Chestnut Street School, with construction starting next month.
Brohm’s hopes for preschoolers were realized on April 8, when state officials announced an expansion to full-day pre-K for Long Island school districts for the first time this fall.
“This would be a great thing for us to have all of our young learners here,” Brohm said. “Things are truly in motion. I just hope that it stays on that upward trajectory, and that we see this come to fruition sooner than later.”
At a news conference at Chestnut Street last Thursday, State Senators Todd Kaminsky, Kevin Thomas, Shelley Mayer and Anna Kaplan and Assemblywoman Judy Griffin announced that 64 school districts would receive a total of 5,149 new spots for 4-year-olds in the 2021-22 school year. West Hempstead schools will receive $286,200 to create 53 full-day pre-K slots, while the Malverne School District will get $264,600 for 49 slots.
“As a working parent who’s a mom of three, it’s hard to find affordable child care,” said Oroma Mpi-Reynolds, of West Hempstead. “This is great news, and it’s just in time for my youngest child.”
Mpi-Reynolds, a special-needs attorney, added that it would be important for parents to have the option to place their children in a pre-K program in which they can receive speech or occupational therapy, instead of being forced to use a day care center.
West Hempstead Superintendent Daniel Rehman said that more than 50 percent of the district’s kindergarten students arrive with no prior school experience. The district, he added, has spent the past few years developing a comprehensive pre-K curriculum focusing on cognitive, social and emotional and foundational educational skills.
“As we knew, there was a piece missing,” Rehman said. “Creating a pre-K program is another step in our educational journey to provide an expansion program for all West Hempstead students.”
This funding is part of a $3 billion increase in school aid statewide. South Shore schools in Kaminsky’s 9th Senate District would receive more than $326 million in state funding in this year’s budget, an increase of more than $43.6 million.
“Providing a high-quality education for our children is my top priority, and strengthening the school district is integral to ensuring that West Hempstead and Malverne remain wonderful places to live and raise a family,” Kaminsky said. “Importantly, the more money we secure from Albany, the less local taxpayers are called on to shoulder the financial burden. That’s certainly a goal of ours.”
“Our students have faced unimaginable challenges, and Covid-19 has highlighted numerous educational inequalities here on Long Island,” Thomas said. “Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that not only our students recover from this crisis, but thrive in spite of it. Early-childhood education programs are a proven strategy for putting children on a path to success in school and beyond.”
Brohm said she hoped the pre-K center would be ready for the start of the 2021-22 school year.